As a singer-songwriter, Greg Antista’s gotten accustomed to wearing his heart on his sleeve. Of course being a long time OC punk rocker means that it’s been scuffed up and stabbed a few times. It’s the kind of trauma that, for better or worse, makes a good troubadour. In the case of his latest project, Greg Antista and the Lonely Streets, turning sorrow into songs that can move crowds and also connect them to his local roots is part of what he loves most about his current band.
“That’s the best way to represent where I’m from,” Antista says. “We’re lucky enough to live in Orange County and I was lucky to be here at pivotal point when punk rock exploded. Social Distortion, Agent Orange and The Adolescents all started up at my high school and I got to witness that.” One of the key figures in that early punk rock scene was the late Steve Soto, one of Antista’s best friends since he was a teen and later a bandmate in their band Joyride.
The night before Soto passed last June, Antista was working with him on a batch of his solo songs which he had planned to release, though he didn’t have any big plans for them. Their night of laughing and strumming would be the last one they spent together before Soto’s untimely death from a long, sordid battle of health related issues at the age of 54.
Months later, the heartbreak of losing his best friend inspired Antista to not only get back into playing music again, but starting to perform and play live at local shows and festivals.
“I hadn’t done the sing songwriter thing since Joyride and a lot of things happened in between but this is my first attempt to come back and write a record and form a band,” Antista says. One of the byproducts of playing with so many bands in the OC punk scene for so long was Antista’s ability to hear the members he wanted in his head for the songs before they ever played a note. Right away he knew who to call to fill out his roster–lead soloing guitar wiz Jessica Kaczmarek of Buzztop Hurricanes and Russell Scott & The Red Hots, versatile and powerful bassist Warren Renfrow of The Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic and Jorge E. Disguster of Mr. Miranga Mink Daggers. Each of them bringing their accomplished style and wisdom to the table meant that Antista could get started right away bringing his mix of roots music, Ramones, and old school OC punk to life.
“Once we put everything on hold for a month after Steve died we said fuck that we’re gonna go in and do a record because there’s no time to waste,” Antista says.
Though all of the members who created a name for themselves in their respective former bands are in a much different place in their lives than the average brand new band, the excitement conjured up by bringing the sound forged during the glory days of clubs like the Doll Hut in Anaheim in the ’90s is part of what made them want to move full steam ahead.
“It’s a breath of fresh air that people still care about something that we’ve all been doing individually for so long but coming together now finally,” Disguster says. “I have a family and I’m juggling three different bands and my 9 to 5…I’m humbled that I’m still able to have my cake and eat it too, everything balances out. I’m lucky because so many of our friends aren’t able to do it anymore.”
Ahead of their debut album Shake, Stomp and Stumble, recorded with Paul Miner at Buzzbomb Studios in Orange, the band released their single and video for “Good Night Ramona,” a Social D-inspired cowpunk tune with bluster and soul of OC roots musicians like Big Sandy and The Blasters.
“I never knew Big Sandy existed until I started working at the Doll Hut back in the ‘90s, and then I started to go see him and The Blasters and all that local roots music and this is all a conglomeration of that on this record,” Antista says. “So I hope it represents Orange County.”
Forged out of the pain of a recent breakup, most of the songs like “Finally Say Goodbye” and “Shiver” carry a tinge of angst and reckless abandon that suits Antista’s voice, a sturdy punk-inspired howl that evokes the true emotion of an everyday man battling against heartbreak. Even in the darkness of his lowest points, he still pays tribute to the soul of rock n roll, which in his case is still his best friend Soto. The band’s album ends with the track, “Forever,” one of Soto’s most beloved original songs.
Staying active on stage since they got their start earlier this year, Greg Antista and the Lonely streets continue to bring a rollicking rock n roll show to stages around OC, including tomorrow’s gig at the Garden Amp with fellow OC punk veterans CH. 3, as well as The Rockets and The Berzerkers. Keeping the torch burning for high octane, punk-inspired roots rock, Antista says every show is a nod to the scene he came from.
“I’m happy to be a part of that lineage and I wanna do it well and represent it honestly and I make music that I enjoy and I hope people can relate to it,” Antista says. “If nothing else, it’s from the heart.”
Greg Antista and the Lonely Streets perform at Garden Amp tomorrow (Record Release show for Shake, Stomp, and Stumble) with CH. 3, The Rocketz and The Berzerkers. 6:30 p.m., $10. For tickets and full details, click here.